The Unreluctant Vassal

Unlike Germany and France, for instance, which at times reluctantly follow Washington’s orders, Britain is an eager co-participant in U.S. adventurism, says Joe Lauria.

The following is the transcript of a speech CN Editor Joe Lauria gave to the Human Rights Day Assange rally in front of the British Consulate in New York City on Saturday:

CN Editor Joe Lauria speaking before the British Consulate in New York Saturday. (Consortium News)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
andy [Credico] asked me to do an impersonation of Fidel Castro in terms of how long he wants me to speak. And I have quite a few things to say here. But first, this building. I used to visit here every week for about ten years to get a briefing from the British ambassador to the United Nations, because in this building is not only the consulate but the U.N. mission. And I was a correspondent for 25 years down there at the U.N. So I got a real sense, an insight into the thinking of British diplomacy and its role in the world and the influence it has.

A lot of people think, as Randy does, that they are a colony of the U.S. I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that at all. British diplomats are probably the best in the world, and so are their spies. They’ve been in this game a very, very long time.

What became clear to me during my time observing British diplomacy is that it’s very obvious, even with the case of Julian Assange, that the United Kingdom is not another vassal of the United States like Germany or France, which reluctantly goes along with orders coming from Washington [even when it’s not in their interests].

Macron with Putin. (, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

We’ve seen Macron making noises. He goes to see Putin in Moscow. He talks about a new security architecture for Europe and then what happens? Her (Bundestag MP Sevin Dagdelen) chancellor also says things like we’re not going to send weapons to Ukraine. [And he visited the Kremlin too. You didn’t see Boris Johnson going to Moscow. Instead he went to Kiev to tell Zelensky not to negotiate with Putin and that the war must go on.]

Ultimately, Germany conceded to the U.S. They let that pipeline be destroyed. Britain may have been involved in that destruction.

The thing is, we don’t know that for sure, but we do know that the British government, when it lost its empire, really at the Suez crisis when Eisenhower stepped up and stopped it, that’s when they realized that they’d better join the United States in running a joint empire. And being as clever as they are, they’re not just taking orders, in my view, from the United States.

For example, in the first Gulf War, remember that Margaret Thatcher said publicly to George H.W. Bush, ‘Don’t go wobbly about attacking Saddam Hussein’? This is the British prime minister talking to the president in public, telling him to grow a backbone and attack Iraq.

In the second Gulf War, Germany and France voted against the authorization of the invasion down at the Security Council.

That was one of the rare instances where a European so-called vassal stood up to the United States. De Gaulle, pulling France out of Nato being another rare instance. But here was Germany and France voting with China and Russia not to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Guess which permanent member was the only one that voted with the United States? [From the audience: ‘Britain.’] Very good.

Great Britain. And why? Because it was planning to join the invasion of its former colony, Iraq, all along. Blair was not Bush’s poodle, as is often thought. The plans were in there to invade, and they took part in it. They couldn’t do it alone. They needed the United States with them. I’m not saying that Britain drove the invasion, but they had an equal part in driving that invasion.

Recall the Downing Street memo. All this talk about 45 minutes and Saddam can have a missile in Trafalgar Square and all that rubbish we were told.

So coming to Julian Assange, we have to understand that this journalist is being persecuted not just by the United States, but by Great Britain too. Why? Because they want him crushed. I’m talking about Whitehall. They want Assange crushed as much as the United States does for revealing crimes of state.

They took an active part in the operation to arrest Julian Assange from the Ecuador embassy in London. And how did they do that? Well, it was called Operation Pelican, and this is from Declassified UK reporting.

In the last few days the Home Office had eight staff, and the Cabinet Office had seven staff working on a secret operation to arrest Julian Assange in April 2019.

The Ministry of Justice, which runs the courts. They won’t say if their staff was involved in this Operation Pelican. The Foreign Office at first refused to say if its premises were used for the operation, and they lied. A junior minister from the Foreign Office lied to Parliament saying that they weren’t involved. And now it’s been revealed that, yes, they had several officers working on this case from the Foreign Office.

And Sir Alan Duncan, who was foreign minister for the Americas and for Europe from 2016 to 2019, he ran this U.K. campaign to force Assange out of the embassy. As a minister in Parliament he made his opposition to Assange very well known. He called Julian Assange a ‘miserable little worm’ in a speech to the House of Commons.

In his diaries, Duncan refers to, quote, ‘the supposed human rights of Julian Assange.’ He admits in his book to arranging an article in The Daily Mail, a hit piece on Assange in the Mail that was published the day after Julian was arrested. Duncan watched the U.K. police pulling Julian Assange out of that embassy in London from his operation room in the Foreign Office.

He watched a live feed and they were wearing ties. His team wore ties that were adorned with little pictures of pelicans from Operation Pelican. And they had a drink to celebrate the arrest of Julian Assange. Afterwards, Theresa May, who was the Prime Minister at the time, announced to the House of Commons that he’d been arrested. And there was a loud cheer.

I don’t know if it only came from the Conservative backbenchers. It could have also been Labour. I wouldn’t be surprised. Duncan, a couple of days later, flew to Ecuador to thank President Lenin Moreno, the new government of Ecuador that lifted the political asylum of Julian Assange. He thanked him and brought him a beautiful porcelain plate from the Buckingham Palace gift shop.

Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett Burnett. (Magistrate’s Association)

I just want to say that the independence of the British judiciary is at stake in this case. Assange is waiting for a decision from the High Court on his application to appeal the extradition order, as well as aspects of the lower court ruling. The Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, is the judge who will decide whether to accept that appeal. And guess what, Alan Duncan and Judge Burnett are good friends.

They have lunch together. They went to their birthday parties. So we want to know, is this an independent judiciary in Britain? I’ll tell you that it’s clear that the image of British justice and justice itself is on the line in the case of Julian Assange. If he’s extradited, the whole world will know the British role in this tragedy and this travesty.

Watch the speech:

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

Donate Today to CN’s

2022 Winter Fund Drive

Donate securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:


9 comments for “The Unreluctant Vassal

  1. Simon Colbert
    December 14, 2022 at 23:38

    Very good writing and you are right to acknowledge the partner role of UK as oppose a mere vassal. For those doubting the UK is not just a poodles, ‘UK brain, US brawn’, they should study how the so-called special relationship between US and UK came about. Any American patriot in 19th would have found this relationship an anathema, going against the anti-colonial republican revolution they did and despise ‘British free trade’ and Malthusian view of the world, which was just a suppression of economic development on its non-white Protestant colonies (from Ireland to India) and informal one (from Latin America to China passing by Turkey) which all became Third World countries at the beginning of 20th, thank to its policies to ‘specialize’ them in raw resources export and importing manufacture from England and putting them in debt to the City of London, ensuring they became and stayed poor. But England always has its ‘stay-behind’ network in the former colony and would have conscious plan to take it back to his worldview, not been able to have it back military; one think of Cecil Rhodes, for example.
    Mainly, but not exclusively, this network was centered around Wall Street, starting with Aaron Burr, the one who killed the nationalist Alexander Hamilton, the intellectual founder of what was called the ‘American system’ of economy. This outlook was further developed by the then famous Henry C.Carey, son of Mathew Carey, unfortunately almost erased from American economic university, or derided as a ‘protectionist’. Now, the last president who somewhat had this outlook was President McKinley, who was shot by an anarchist, from, guess where, London, to be replaced by the Anglophile Theodore Roosevelt, whom his uncle he admired was none other than the chief spy in Europe of the Confederate during the Civil war (see James D. Bulloch: Secret Agent and Mastermind of the Confederate Navy), who had very good connection in the English high society. Of course, in 20th it was not always an easy relationship, an FD Roosevelt and a Kennedy having different views as to develop the world as opposed to rerun the economic policy of UK Empire (in a new shape of a debt trap going along with IMF structural reform and neoliberal policies imposed on the nations of the world which is just an actualized policy of what was doing the City of London in 19th century), but we know what happens to the last. But, to the naysayers, they should just go online to read Kissinger’s May 10th 1982 speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs called: “Reflections on a Partnership: British and American Attitudes To Postwar Foreign Policy” (International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 58, No. 4 (Autumn, 1982), pp. 571-587) where he said he adopted more the British outlook against an American outlook more optimistic in, among others, science and progress.

  2. JonnyJames
    December 13, 2022 at 18:29

    Joe makes some great points here. Another bit that comes to mind was the overthrow of Mossadegh 1954 in Iran was a joint venture by the US/UK. The US did reign in the UK during the Suez Crisis, pulling rank on the UK junior partner. But a junior partner nonetheless, rather than ordinary vassal like the rest of the EU.

    British foreign policy has been anti-Russia long before 1917 or 1945, so in many ways the US is continuing a couple hundred years of foreign policy tradition and the US/UK are in lockstep on many issues.

    What might appear to be different recently: the UK economy and financial well being of millions are being wrecked largely by the foreign policy decisions of their govt. This appears to some as serving the US at the expense of Brits. For that matter US foreign policy decisions are wrecking the economic well-being of millions US dwellers. In that regard, everyone except the super wealthy are getting screwed over, as usual.

  3. Carolyn L Zaremba
    December 13, 2022 at 13:56

    Thanks, Joe.

  4. DW Bartoo
    December 13, 2022 at 13:15

    The functional purpose of the “legal” systems of both the U.K. and the U$ is (and always has been) to protect the status quo of wealth, power, and privilege.

    Over the past three quarters of a century, both “legal” systems have increasingly, followed the lead of the German “legal” system which, under the Nazi “philosophy”, became what the Nuremberg trials termed “empty law”.

    Frankly, the oft cited conviction that “we” have a “rule of law” in both nations, is no more true than that we possess genuine democracy. One suspects that England’s “subjects” are far more aware, on some level, of this truth than are U$ “citizens”.

    Yet both populations are subject to myths of narrative control so pervasive and ubiquitous as to become part of their own identities, even as the basic rights of both populations are increasingly restricted and often removed, usually under the claim of “security” while their “freedom” is ballyhooed as “sacred” and inviolate, even as they never have even the most meager say about actual policy which determines their actual wellbeing and quality of life.

    To be clear, those who “practice”, promulgate, and prosecute this “law” do not care, in the least, what subject or citizen think about how the “law” is used or abused, they have wealth, power, and privilege. We do not.

    They can harm us grievously (six ways to Sunday).

    However, the people have no effective means of opposing bad law excepting that, as Allen Ginsburg said, “Bad law begets disrespect for all law.”

    There is no equality there, nor is any intended.

    If we do not have genuine rule of law then we have rule by those who control the legal system which results in decisions such as Citizens United, for example, or the travesty we witness with the persecution, for that is what it is, of Julian Assange.

    What are we going to do about it?

    Only when enough human beings understand the truth (of very many things) and are willing to stand for the justice of that truth, is there any meaningful opportunity of actual change.

    Are we there yet?

    What do you think?

    If we honestly examine the U$ “legal” system, considering both the role of money and the issue of “standing”, it becomes quite clear that actual justice is not the object, any more than is “equality” under law despite the rich being prohibited from sleeping under bridges just as are the poor.

    To imply that those with money and connection are subject to the same “weight” of law as are those without wealth is ludicrous nonsense.

    When the courts are confronted with any threat to the economic or political systems, for example, far too often the courts declare that those appealing to the court for justice may be readily dismissed and denied the “standing” to be heard or their grievance(s) addressed.

  5. Alex Cox
    December 13, 2022 at 11:49

    Writing as an Englishman, I must oppose your claim that we are not the yanks’ poodles. We most certainly are. I have worked with London-based politicians, journalists and media people. Those with any power at all are terrified of offending the Americans. In Westminster and at the BBC, rule number one is, would the Americans approve/allow this?

    Consortium News ran an excellent piece about the number of US air bases in UK. Add to that the spy bases where CIA agents are able to run down British cyclists and fly home the next day.

    England is Airstrip One, and we will pay an awful price for this.

      December 13, 2022 at 17:03

      What is being contrasted is Germany and France’s relations with the US with Britain’s. US and British interests coalesce far more than they do with France or Germany’s. France and Germany and other European nations often reluctantly go along with the US and must sometimes be pressured or coerced to do so. This is not the case with Britain. Germany and France will often act against their own interests to go along with the U.S. Britain follows its own interests in going along with the U.S. There are many of examples of this cited. Britain is a partner, not a poodle.

  6. Vera Gottlieb
    December 13, 2022 at 10:48

    It isn’t the first time that I state that US/UK are the asses of evil. Two peas in a pod…always getting along so well.

  7. Red Star
    December 13, 2022 at 10:12

    ” So we want to know, is this an independent judiciary in Britain?”

    What you have to bear in mind is that the British judiciary – along with the police, armed forces, MPs, etc – have to swear an oath of alligence to the monarch. Not the people, not the state – the monarch (this is reflected in our so-called national anthem, God Save The King. Look up the lyrics sometime – no mention of the people, no mention of the nation).

    Then you have to see the monarch for what they really are – the personification of The Esthablishment. The figurehead.

    So the judiciary and all the other organizations are swearing alligence to The Esthablishment. To protect and maintain it. Some of them may deviate slightly at times, but not enough or in enough numbers to ever change anything.

    So that’s why you get situations like Assange’s…. or for that matter, Jeremy Corbyn.

  8. Vesa S
    December 13, 2022 at 08:56

    Tarring and feathering is what these evil persons like Burnett, Baraitser, Duncan etc deserve.
    I wish i mastered the secrets of voodoo, it would not be difficult to choose targets.

Comments are closed.